Unreal Nature

February 22, 2018


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:08 am

… they threaten to alter our ‘state of real’ and ultimately affect the shape of our world.

These are fragments from ‘The State of the Real’ (1972) found in Robert Irwin: Notes Toward a Conditional Art edited by Matthew Sims (2011, 2017):

… For us to see ‘art’ as a confined pictorial world is a very learned logic. It takes a very elaborate developed logic to see a window when there never was a window; to read a book, to be able to look at all those abstract marks on a page and give them meaning takes this learned logic, and when you learn to function within these terms, they construct your ‘state of real.’

… The key to the mark in art in the historical sense was that the more meaningful the mark was, the more it conveyed. The more purpose you could put in the mark, the more classic it became. Twentieth-century art started out as a highly sophisticated pictorial form, and modern art has been a step-by-step disassociation and the disempowering of that mark. The consequences of that act are a real question, for they threaten to alter our ‘state of real’ and ultimately affect the shape of our world.

Take the mark down to a base point of no power. As a simple mark on a surface it not only has no object or function relationships, it has no philosophic, emotional, or psychological overtones.

What you start with is that the mark is completely empty and meaningless, a difficult thing to do. Let’s assume that we can deal with an absolutely meaningless mark: in what manner can we relate to it?

… The problem was that I was confined to this format which suddenly made no sense to me, that of composing a world within this square canvas, which seemed to me to be very arbitrary. I sensed the world around me opening out, not closed in.

… What I really wanted to do was paint a painting without a ‘mark’ at all, but I had no way of conceiving that at the time, except just to leave the mark out, with a plain canvas.

Now the important questions became “How do you break the edge?” and “How do I paint a painting without marks?”

… ‘Perceiving yourself perceiving’ activates the next step. Since objects are not the limits of seeing and the focus of intellect is questioned, the rules of the game no longer apply, and one begins to re-examine the activities of art …

My previous post from Irwin’s book is here.




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